Friday, September 26, 2014

‘Coloring Animal Mandalas’ Brings Back the Joy of Childhood, Develops Creativity, Relieves Stress

By Emma Krasov

Bringing back the happy moments of childhood, a new book by artist-illustrator Wendy Piersall, “Coloring Animal Mandalas,” just published by Ulysses Press, invites grownups to open a box of pencils, and relive the long gone, but never forgotten bliss of coloring blank black outlines on book pages.
The intricate design, which places dragons, foxes, butterflies, lions, tigers, swans, snakes, peacocks, seahorses and even unicorns in beautifully rounded mandalas (from the Sanskrit word for “circle”) might be too complex and meticulous for children, but is definitely a great creative and stress-relieving exercise for adults.
Mandalas of various patterns have been used for meditation and emotional healing for thousands of years, and as you transform the detailed shapes in this book into stunning works of art, you find yourself relaxing, focused, reaching a higher state of mindfulness and simply enjoying yourself.
Wendy Piersall is a lifelong artist who has been drawing mandala coloring pages since 2009. Here’s what she had to say on the subject in a short Q&A session:
1. What are mandalas?
            Mandalas are circle drawings that have history in ancient Buddhism and today are used in art therapy, meditation and as beautiful decorative art. Monks used to take days to make mandala designs out of colored sand, then sweep the sand into the water to teach the impermanence of life.
2. Why animal mandalas?
                I first drew animal mandalas when my oldest daughter was going through a phase of a deep love of animals. At the time, she wanted to become a marine biologist and I was looking for inspiration of mandalas to draw for my kid's activities websites. Years later, my editor from Ulysses Press found them and approached me to do a whole book of animal mandalas. I jumped at the chance!
3. How can adults find coloring relaxing?
                I find coloring relaxing for several reasons. Coloring was a favorite activity as a child, so it's easy to tap into the warmth and happiness of those memories when coloring. My mother has Alzheimer's, and the nursing home where she lives also does coloring activities with their residents because it is calming, easy, and enjoyable. Mostly, though, I find it extremely meditative to both draw and color mandalas. You really have to clear your mind to color them and simply pay attention to the lines and colors. It makes you focus your thoughts away from daily life and stress and on the simple process of coloring.
4. Is illustration mandalas as relaxing as the process of coloring them in?
                As I mentioned before, yes, though sometimes I get stuck on the creative process when my perfectionism kicks in. When that happens, I walk away for a while or work on a different drawing. Just like with life, if you overthink things, it's best to take a break and approach drawing with a fresh perspective.
5. How often do you color?
                These days I've been coloring almost daily! In some ways, it's a nice break from drawing, because I get to enjoy the art rather than work on creating it. It also feeds my creativity, because I'm starting to get new ideas for more coloring pages to draw in the future. I have to be proactive against getting burned out, so coloring is the perfect way to stay creative without having to crank out work on paying gigs.
“Coloring Animal Mandalas” by Wendy Piersall is available on,, and other book retailers.

A.G. Ferrari: Welcome to Everyday Gourmet

By Emma Krasov

For a 95-year-old, A.G. Ferrari is rather boldly refreshing, updating, and reinvigorating its brand. A Bay Area staple, the well-loved specialty Italian food purveyor under three generations of family ownership is now re-opening its stores with remodeled interiors, new menu offerings, and an expert wine selection geared toward being paired with food.   
Besides importing and retailing artisanal and specialty products, boutique wines, and seasonal goods and gift items, A.G. Ferrari delivers fresh, contemporary “progressive Italian” cuisine, prepared on the premises.
The rejuvenation of the brand began last year, after it was acquired by San Francisco investment firm Murano Group. The changes include updated store designs, an entirely new menu, an enhanced wine program, and the introduction of an in-house chef and new leadership team.

At a media luncheon earlier this week, the new Corporate Chef Ira Meyer – an industry veteran with more than 32 years of experience in kitchens and gourmet markets across the U.S. – showcased samplings of the new menu items, paired with Italian wine varietals selected by Sommelier and Wine Consultant Tim Baumann.

Salads and sides from the new menu include a remarkable number of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items to meet the demand of the sophisticated Bay Area consumers. Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin; Fennel, Orange & Hazelnut Salad, Roasted Eggplant Caponata with red and yellow bell peppers, toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, roasted garlic and fresh basil; Cannellini beans with roasted tomatoes, and Grilled Vegetable Medley – all bursting with freshness and deliciousness – were paired with La Farra Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore.

Proteins were presented by gluten-free Ricotta & Beef Polpette with Sugo di Pomodoro (baked ricotta and beef meatballs in tomato sauce), and lightly breaded succulent Chicken Milanese garnished with roasted broccolini. The former was paired with the red De Conciliis “Donna Luna” Paestum, Cilento Aglianico, and the latter – with white Palazzone Terre Vineate, Orvieto Classico Superiore.
Signature sandwich options include a broad range of Italian deli items, both cold and hot – all served on amazingly soft yet crusty breads from the famed San Francisco Pan-o-Rama bakery.  

Tre – Roast Pork Loin sandwich on ciabatta was made with 24-hour brined meat, house-made aioli, drained overnight and roasted crunchy capers, and a side of quinoa-grilled squash salad. This mighty tasty construction was paired with red Giuseppe Gabbas “LilLove” Cannonau di Sardinia.    
Sette – Prosciutto (aged 24 months) & Burrata sandwich with arugula, lemon aioli, and balsamic glaze was paired with delicate rose Cantina Andriano, Lagrein Rose.

Hot Sedici – Asparagus sandwich with a side of roasted cauliflower (both vegetables notoriously hard to be paired with wine) found its perfect match in white Cantina del Tabruno, Falanghina.
Finally, Quattordici – Turkey & Fig sandwich with jam and ricotta – was paired with red Venturini, Valpolicella Classico.
With the new menu firmly in place, Chef Meyer will work to create and execute Italian culinary programs that will include not only seasonal prepared foods, but also private label products and catering. Sommelier Baumann will strive to have a broad representation of all 20 Italian wine regions with an emphasis on interesting yet reasonably priced wines from reputable producers. By placing an increased emphasis on food and wine pairings, Baumann aims to encourage guests to round out their meal with a wine to match. In addition to creating “shelf talkers” with recommended foods and recipes to enjoy with each wine, a dedicated educational area in each store will feature wine and food pairings, showcasing A.G. Ferrari’s new culinary offerings. A.G. Ferrari also will invite producers visiting from Italy to conduct in-store wine tastings, incorporating specialty products at each location.
Baumann also has instituted an educational program featuring a different Italian wine region each month. Highlights range from well-known winegrowing areas, such as Sicily, to lesser known regions, such as Calabria, Puglia and Campania, with a focus on wines that aren’t widely available in the United States. Other monthly offerings include seasonal selections, such as Rosé for summer and sparkling wines for the holidays. Alongside each featured wine, Baumann includes a detailed synopsis with facts about the wine, producer and history of the region. Next month, October, will feature the wines from Tuscany.
“This is an exciting time for A.G. Ferrari,” said CEO Jarett Peppard – an industry veteran of more than 20 years. “This ‘grand opening’ event will showcase the culmination of our efforts to reinvigorate this historic brand. We are unveiling a fundamentally different customer experience. Everything from the food to the service will change. Our goal is to offer an enhanced neighborhood market-café feel with an emphasis on quality to-go items in addition to an exciting and broad selection of imported goods from dedicated Italian purveyors.”
With the goal of becoming the premier specialty Italian retailer in the country, in addition to the in-store changes, A.G. Ferrari is also expanding the wholesale, e-commerce and catering businesses. Luxury and specialty seasonal goods, including a variety of gift options, will be offered year-round both in-store and online with an increased assortment available during the holidays.
A.G. Ferrari markets are located throughout Northern California, with stores in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Store-specific offerings vary based on location, with selections and service customized for local clientele. Open daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (varies by location). Call for more information 510.346.2100, or visit

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Meaning of Shasta

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Some say, the name of Mount Shasta comes from a very similarly sounding Russian word that means “happiness.” I never knew for sure if that was true, but I had a burning desire to check it out and see for myself.
One early morning my husband and I stuffed our car trunk with everything from swimsuits to parkas, and headed up north to the snow-covered 14,179-foot peak towering over a mountainous region of dense forests and blue lakes. Known as Shasta Cascade, this region in the far north of California, borders Oregon and Nevada, and includes a part of Sierra Nevada mountain range.
We couldn’t make it to Mt. Shasta because of the grey soot in the air that was spreading from wild fires in Oregon. Instead, we decided to concentrate on nearby Lake Shasta and the many wonders that surround it.

Turning back south and heading to Redding – the central city on the Shasta Cascade region – we stopped for an unexpectedly luxurious lunch at a new restaurant View 202 with enticing contemporary design and incomparable views of the Sacramento River.
Executive Chef Sean Gafner creates elaborate menus for Spring-Summer and Fall-Winter seasons by talking to local farmers and using a wide variety of their produce. Corn, squash, beets, figs, herbs and lettuces come from the nearby farms. The longest-traveling garlic comes from Gilroy.

Starting with a Summer Mule cocktail, made with Russian Standard vodka and house-made lemon sorbet, and served in a chilled copper mug, we realized that we were at the right place.
Signature drinks Watermelon Mojito and Lavender Margarita followed, and the food was rather comparable to the best in San Francisco. No wonder View 202 has been voted the “Best of the North State” in six different categories.

Brightly-colored Lobster Lettuce Cups were prepared with citrus-pouched slipper lobster tail, organic red quinoa, Cammache Creek summer squash from Chico, heirloom tomato from Anderson, avocado and basil.

Grilled Steelhead, sustainably caught in Columbia River, was served with Basmati rice from a neighboring farm, roasted Brussels sprouts, and mustard seed buerre blanc.
Since it was over 90 degrees outside, I was especially impressed with a frozen dessert Café Liegeios made with double chocolate ice cream, vanilla bean ice cream, coffee ice cream, espresso granite, whipped cream, and crispy espresso meringue bits.

After lunch, we took some time to explore the city. Right in the middle of it there is a 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park with a museum, a zoo, an aquarium, arboretum, botanical gardens, and a year-round aviary, where visitors can walk through Parrot Playhouse and have exotically colored and constantly chatting parrots land on their heads and shoulders. 

The most famous part of the Park is Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River built by a Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

In order to protect the spawning grounds of the Chinook salmon underneath, the 710-foot-long bridge is fully suspended, without any footings in the water, and its walking surface is made of translucent glass, beautifully lit at night.  With a 21-story high pylon that supports the entire construction, and thanks to its exact north-south orientation, the bridge serves as the world’s tallest working sundial. 
Making a short trip to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area we started to fully appreciate hot midday air and the abundance of sunshine. Mingling with a crowd along the popular Brandy Creek Beach we found a place to relax in the shade and take a dip in the cool clear water coming from the pure snow caps of the Cascade Range mountains.

We tried to make a dinner reservation at Jack’s Grill – Redding’s landmark steakhouse in operation since 1938, but a cheerful voice on the phone told us that the place didn’t accept reservations. While entering its historical location on California Street, we realized why.

Opened during the Great Depression by World War I aviator Jack Young, the restaurant, co-owned by Don Conley since the late 1970s, continues to serve the same hearty fair that used to feed miners and construction workers after a 16-hour workday, and maintains the same level of pricing (on a contemporary scale, of course).  Locals and tourists line up to get inside the legendary eatery, and no one minds waiting for a table at the bar where bartender and co-owner Mike Woodrum is shoveling ice and mixing drinks with a speed and dedication of a true virtuoso.    
By sunset, we were heading to Shasta Lake Properties overlooking Lake Shasta, owned and operated by Ken Tellstrom – formerly a world champion in wakeboarding.
The owner, and his fiancée Ashley were on the premises while we were settling down in Dream View Vacation Home with floor-to-ceiling windows, two spacious bedrooms, living rooms, and terraces on two levels.
They took us on a tour to a larger vacation home of Shasta Lake Properties, called Lodge View - a spacious wooden house, decorated with hunting trophies and suitable for 8 to 10 people. (To view these homes visit their website,
After a relaxing evening watching pink and golden hues of sunset over the Lake, and then a night sky, filled with bright stars of Milky Way, we had the most quiet country night, and woke up to a symphony of birds chirping in the surrounding forest.

I made a quick meal of bread and cold cuts that looked positively chick in a glass-walled breakfast nook of the cottage flooded by the morning sunlight.

We drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and entered through the north gate to enjoy the mirrored surface of Manzanita Lake and pick up maps and brochures at the park Visitor Center.

From there, we started slowly moving along the scenic drive lined with all imaginable species of pines, and massive granite boulders, back in 1915 ejected from the Lessen Peak volcano three miles away. At the park’s largest hydrothermal basin, Bumpass Hell, we walked over bubbling mudpots, boiling springs, and hissing stem vents emitting strong sulphuric smell.

Our up-close and personal encounter with the magical world of not-so-dormant volcanoes ended up peacefully at Drakesbad Guest Ranch located within the park.

The wooden cabins of this mountain valley retreat, famous since 1900, are equipped with rustic furniture, basic utilities, and kerosene lamps – there’s no electricity inside. A stay includes three meals a day at a rather nice restaurant on the premises with excellent service. Another major draw of the compound is a swimming pool fed by hot springs, which allows for a delightful nighttime swim under a starry sky.

A short hike in the vicinity of Drakesbad Ranch brings you to a fairy tale Boiling Springs Lake with a view of a snowy Lassen Peak over the dancing vapors of the hot volcanic lake.

First thing next morning, to keep ahead of the heat and the usual crowds, we were boarding a shuttle boat for a pleasure ride toward North Gray Rocks on the east shore of Lake Shasta. Here lies another natural wonder of the area – Lake Shasta Caverns.

Up on a hillside with stunning views of the lake below, Dave Mundt, our expert guide with extensive knowledge on the subject and a remarkable sense of humor led our group inside the 250-million-year-old cave adorned with subtly colored glowing stalactites and stalagmites. He pointed his flashlight to “curtains,” “chandeliers,”  “sheep,” and even a “royal couple on thrones” made of lime stone and calcite shaped over eons by wind and water.

Our next stop was at McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, home to the 129-foot Burney Falls formed by underground springs coming to the surface from a water reservoir hidden in porous volcanic basalt. Flowing at 100 million gallons a day all year round, the spectacular waterfall emits brilliant mist of shiny droplets, and is framed with lush greenery on all sides, blue skies above, and rough boulders underneath.
After a full day spent with Mother Nature, we were back to Redding checking in at Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn for a comfortable stay with included breakfast and a swimming pool.
Happy with our adventures, but tired and hungry, we had a big and satisfying dinner at the Cattlemen’s Restaurant according to “Cattlemen’s Code” – feel and flavor of the Old West, aged and hand-cut beef, and old-fashioned Western hospitality.

More information about Redding-Shasta Cascade region and everything it has to offer can be found here: Virtual Visitors Guide:;;

Pippin at SHN Golden Gate Theatre – Fireworks of Delight

By Emma Krasov

Energetic and electrifying, but also rather philosophical; simultaneously sarcastic and romantic, and above all – incredibly athletic and hyper talented, the 2013 Tony Award-winning revival of “Pippin” – the 1972 Broadway musical – was met with standing ovation at the San Francisco SHN Golden Gate Theatre at the show premiere yesterday.
Matthew James Thomas, who originated the title role in the current production on Broadway, shines on the San Francisco stage, supported by the stellar cast of Lucie Arnaz as Berthe, Sasha Allen (a finalist on the 4th season on NBC’s “The Voice”) as Leading Player, Tony Award winner John Rubinstein (Pippin from the 1972 original Broadway production) as Pippin’s father Charles, Sabrina Harper (from the revival Broadway production) as Fastrada, Callan Bergmann as Lewis, Kristine Reese (from “Wicked” on tour) as Catherine, and intermittently Lucas Schultz and Zachary Mackiewicz as her son Theo.

This all-new production of “Pippin” (book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz) is directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, features choreography by Tony Award nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse, and circus creation by Gypsy Snider – co-founder/director of the Montreal-based company Les 7 doigts de la main – and a born and raised in San Francisco daughter of Pickle Family Circus.  
The company also includes gravity-defying fantastical circus performers and dancers Skyler Adams, Sascha Bachman, Bradley Benjamin, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, Mark Burrell, Mathew deGuzman, Fernando Dudka, Mirela Golinska Roche, Kelsey Jamieson, Preston Jamieson, Lisa Karlin, Alan Kelly, Melodie Lamoureux, Tory Trowbridge, Mackenzie Warren and Borris York.
Bringing the show to the highest levels of marvelous and spectacular, are the orchestrations by Tony Award winner Larry Hochman; music supervision and arrangements by Nadia DiGiallonardo; scenic design by Tony Award winner Scott Pask; costume design by Tony Award nominee Dominique Lemieux; lighting design by Tony Award winner Kenneth Posner; sound design by Tony Award nominees Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm.

A story of a young prince on a daring quest for extraordinary existence hasn’t change since the 70s, but according to the original Pippin John Rubinstein, “The 1972 show was grounded in dance… The foundation of the current show is circus. The original production was darker, both in terms of lighting and concept… The new production features a circus troupe that kind of hazes the young man, teaching him what it is – and what it costs – to be a circus performer. We do magic tricks [Mr. Rubinstein is the company master knife-thrower] and death-defying trapeze acts and put on a tremendous show, with him as the sort of reality-TV centerpiece.”   The original production, directed by Bob Fosse, won five Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards, and ran for almost 2000 performances before closing in 1977. The show includes many Broadway standards like “Magic To Do,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Glory,” “No Time at All,” “Morning Glow,” and “Love Song,” and the audience is encouraged to sing along.
Performance Dates: September 23 – October 19; Tuesday–Saturday at 8:00pm. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets and information at: or 888-746-1799. $45-$210.

Fashionable Fillmore Street Launches Fillmore Wine & Food Festival

Photography by Yuri Krasov

A symphony of sights, flavors and experiences await you at the Fillmore Wine & Food Festival on October 6-8. From a stylish sampling of Pacific Heights’ illustrious eateries to a sensory “journey” through India, San Francisco’s new wine and food festival benefitting Ronald McDonald House kicks off Monday, Oct. 6, on celebrated Fillmore Street. The Fillmore Street Merchants Association will host the three-day Fillmore Wine & Food Festival through Wednesday, Oct. 8. Whet your appetite for fun at lunchtime, cocktail hour and dinner. Schedule of events includes:

Monday, October 6, 2014, 7-10 pm: Bourbon & Bacon at the Boom Boom Room
Five bacon dishes and a dessert, all paired with bourbons in a setting designed by Jonathan Adler at one of San Francisco’s coolest speakeasies. Courses will be created by Grillson Barbeque, Palmer’s Tavern, Elite Café, Taco Bar, Dino & Santino’s and Sift Cupcakes, and pairings will be by H. Joseph Ehrmann, internationally renowned spirits expert.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 12–2 pm: Lunch – A Delicious Journey through India with Paired Cocktails at DOSA
Intimate lunch pairing cocktails with South Indian dishes meet owners Anjan and Emily Mitra and learn
Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 6–9 pm: Moveable Feast & Fashion and Fashion’s Night Out
The best of Fillmore Street in a movable feast at more than 35 stylish boutiques with 25 wineries and 25 neighborhood restaurants showcased at each locations.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 12–2 pm: Lunch – Elite Café with Live Jazz Music
An exceptional afternoon of live jazz and an exclusive 4-course lunch by Chef James London in this typically sold-out restaurant that’s rarely open for lunch during the week. Celebrity Liam Mayclem of CBS’s EYE ON THE BAY will be hosting.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 7–9 pm: Spice and Wine at Spice Ace with Chef Borcich of Troya and Deborah Parker Wong, Editor of The Tasting Panel
A sweet and savory spice adventure with five dishes prepared by Troya’s Chef Chris Borcich. Each dish is carefully paired with wines by Deborah Parker Wong who’ll unlock the mysteries of wine pairing at this interactive evening.

Funds raised by the Fillmore Wine & Food Festival will go to support the hard work of the neighborhood Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home for 137 families with children in critical care at one of the local hospitals.

Tickets for the wine tasting, dining, shopping and pop-up events are available online at

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good Morrow to All at Renaissance Faire 'Much Ado About Sebastopol'

Photo reportage by Emma & Yuri Krasov

Renaissance Faire in Sebastopol, California, took place on Saturday, September 13, and Sunday, September 14, 2014 at Ives Park, organized by Sebastopol Educational Foundation and Guild of St. George, Inc., Northern Chapter. Various period activities, performances, games, and arts and crafts, as well as food and drink and entertaining merchandize were presented at Fenford Lane, Pip ‘n Vine Tavern, Guinevere’s Garden, Sherwood Green, and theatre stages and promenades. Sonoma County businesses donated cash and products; hundreds of volunteers dressed in period costumes participated in the event, and all proceeds were used for funding Sebastopol public schools.